International reports and accounts from former presidents and prime ministers have begun to outline the possible impending military coup in Brazil, led by the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. Throughout the year, Bolsonaro has used large-scale military parades and passing reforms impactful to the country’s electoral system as a way to demonstrate his influence and power over the democratic country.
The president himself has stated that the marches were preparation for a “necessary countercoup” against Congress and the Supreme Court, which are both institutions dominated by Bolsonaro’s allies. The president claimed that Brazil’s flawed communist constitution was taking away his power, and he openly accused the judiciary and the left of conspiring against him in an attempt to popularize the passing reforms. The possible potential uprising has emerged amidst claims that Bolsonaro has undermined democratic institutions, this uprising will likely be pointed toward those in congress who opposed Bolsonaro’s reforms and any possible political rivals.
An open letter detailing facets of this possible coup was signed by Ernesto Samper Pizano, a former president of Columbia, Cori Bush, a member of the US House of Representatives, Jean-Luc Melenchon, a French presidential candidate and Manon Aubry a French member of the European Parliament. The letter outlines that there are plans to deploy more than 5,000 police officers to protect the Brazilian congress from Bolsonaro’s supporters and allies. Luiz Fux, the chief justice of Brazil’s Supreme Court stated on the 9th of September, “Freedom of expression does not entail violence and threats…” and warned supporters of the judicial consequences of their actions regardless of their political leanings.
A group of Bolsanaro’s supporters including officials at all levels of government are preparing for a national march to the Supreme Court and Congress. Many supporters undermine the democratic institutions in place and in show of their support to their president claim they will change the fate of Brazil for him. In Bolsanoro’s speeches, he has hinted at the possibility of fraud in the upcoming presidential election in October. He once independently suggested canceling the election completely or postponing it to a later date. In response, a judge from Brazil’s Supreme Court launched an investigation into these claims, and Bolsonaro immediately requested impeachment proceedings against the judge.
This impending coup’s origins lie in 1964 when the first decree of Brazil’s U.S.-backed military dictatorship, ‘Operation Cleanse’ focused on removing leftists and other political opponents from positions of power. Once again, the far-right is referencing this operation as a successful campaign against rejuvenated communism and a method for fixing Brazil’s current political climate. Many facets of the impending coup feel inspired by the United States capital riots earlier this year. A similar president with waning public popularity, and a dedicated loyal minority who see defeat as anything but possible. The tactic of creating an imaginary enemy coup and launching a ‘countercoup’ against it is a common way politicians and world leaders remain in control long after their favourability in the polls recedes. In the past, Bolsonaro has called for a civil war between his supporters and opponents, in 1999 he claimed, “Through the vote, you will not change anything in this country, nothing…things will only change, unfortunately, when, one day, we start a civil war here and do the work that the military regime did not.”
At least five federal investigations are closing in on Bolsonaro and his political associates and public opinion polls show that only 24% of Brazilians approved of Bolsonaro, but his unwavering supporters are sure he will be re-elected. There is a chance this coup will not occur and Bolsonaro will be undermined by the democratic policies he claims to support, however, coups should not be left up to chance. International pressure should be applied on Bolsonaro to set a date for a fair election and his campaign for division and conflict to come to an end.